Rob Gronkowski is in Tom Brady‘s shadow when it comes to Tampa Bay’s Week 4 Game at New England, but the Buccaneers’ tight end nonetheless relishes facing his old team.
Most of the media attention focuses on Tom Brady’s return to Foxborough to face his old head coach Bill Belichick’s Patriots, but Gronkowski had a big role in their dynasty before joining the Bucs. Gronkowski didn’t get into the storylines initially though when he humorously introduced the Bucs schedule last week while playing Mad Libs.
“I know people have New England circled on their calendars,” Gronkowski said in the video. “Instead of circles, I draw birds on my calendar. That’s because I’m an artist.”
Fun aside, Gronkowski made his thoughts know about the Week 4 showdown on Buccaneers.com in a later video.
“That’s going to be pretty crazy,” Gronkowski told Buccaneers.com’s Casey Phillips. “That’s going to be pretty epic. It’s definitely going to be emotional for sure I would say. You know I just had a great nine years. Probably the best nine years of my life. It was basically the beginning of my whole football career there. It’s definitely going to be heartfelt when I go back. I’ve just got to be prepared for that game for sure. I’ve got to be prepared for every game — but especially that one. It’s never going to be easy. It’s going to be tough. But it’s going to be a good one. It’s going to be different.”
Gronkowski will face Belichick’s defense in a game that counts instead of practice for the first time. The veteran tight end joined the Patriots in 2010 after the team took him in the second round of the draft from Arizona.
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Returning to Football Roots
Gronkowski gets to return to the two places where his football career took off in Arizona and New England this year. He returned Arizona as a guest coach for the Wildcats’ spring game.
“I’ve been waiting to come back, too. It just hasn’t been working, you know, I’m playing football and stuff, but it’s just important to come back,” Gronkowski told the Pac-12 Network. “This is where I started getting recognized from the NFL.”
Back injuries that sidelined him during his junior year hindered his draft stock, but his talent kept teams interested as the Patriots traded up to get him with the 42nd pick per Boston.com’s Hayden Bird. Ironically, the Bucs held that 42nd pick for trading to the then-Oakland Raiders before the Raiders traded it to the Patriots.
Gronkowski came to Tampa 10 years later instead, returning from a brief retirement where he stepped away due to nagging injuries. The Patriots traded his contract rights as he joined Brady, who signed with the Bucs as a free agent a month earlier.
Gronkowski returned to his dominant, pass-catching self at times in 2020 amid focusing on blocking. He tallied 45 receptions, 623 yards, and seven touchdowns in 2020. He also joined Brady as the all-time leading quarterback-receiver duo for touchdowns in playoff history with a couple scores from Brady in the Super Bowl LV.
Giving Back to Boston
Gronkowski still maintains ties to the New England community such as donating to fund a playground earlier this month. He tweeted that it was his “way to give back to kids for the amazing support that I received while playing in New England.”
Gronkowski also connected with a Make-A-Wish Kid, Cole Strzepek, in the New England region. The Bucs tight end even let him in on how much longer Brady might play.